Nov. 08--It had to happen sometime, and with "Thor: The Dark World," the eighth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it has come to pass: Marvel's new movie about the god of thunder is the company's first cinematic blunder.
No one above age 15 will tell you that this is a great movie, because they can discern some matter of quality among these pictures. With Marvel's "The Avengers," the bar was raised on this brand. This Thor sequel goes below the bar and sometimes into lowbrow.
There is a surprising lack of passion in this picture, from the performances (mediocre save for one standout) to the comedy bits (throwaway lines as opposed to lines fans will be quoting) to the storyline (an attempt at smart science that is mostly fuzzy and entirely uninteresting).
Outside of the action scenes, the energy in this movie is so low that apparently someone mistook "dark world" to mean "brooding, lethargic world."
Chris Hemsworth became a massive star in the first film, and the "Avengers" picture only heightened his stock because he played so well off the other superheroes. His god of thunder here is all wet.
In "Thor 2," we see that keeping Tom Hiddleston (so blasted fun as Loki, the eternal villain and Thor's sibling) imprisoned for being such a bad boy in "The Avengers" means that Hemsworth has no one spirited enough in their performance to make Thor's blood boil.
Or to make him want to swing that hammer. Or to deliver some catchy verbal comebacks. The only thing "massive" about Hemsworth this time is his physique, and a slow-panning shirtless scene (check out those abs!) will be all that some fans care about in issuing a positive rating.
The movie begins to register a pulse in the second hour once Hiddleston becomes a bigger part of the story, but it's never enough to overcome a story inspired by the "Thor" comics that can in no way be described as inspired.
Before there was the Nine Realms and Asgard, there was darkness in the galaxy (yes, of course, this opening is narrated by Anthony Hopkins, back playing Odin, Thor's dad and king). The Dark Elves ruled, led by Malekith, a particularly spiteful creep that Christopher Eccleston plays with a monotone hatred while looking somewhat like a pale Mr. Spock wearing a British barrister's wig.
The release of an ancient force called the Aether can help Malekith return the world to darkness, once there's a convergence of the Nine Realms, and ... Oh, you get the point: Something that rarely ever happens is about to happen, and this Aether coincidentally makes Dr. Jane Foster (Thor's Earthly love interest and a scientist) its host body.
The worst Marvel superhero movie features the most boring, poorly defined supervillain yet faced. When the bad guy can disappear from the movie for more than a half-hour at a time, you can tell that even the filmmakers aren't that interested in this Malekith character.
So why should Thor be? He's not, and it shows.
I had hopes (dashed, unfortunately) that Portman's character would be killed off in this sequel. The gifted actress looks even more awkward here than she did in the first film, when she played a brilliant scientist as essentially a giggly schoolgirl fawning over Thor's beefcake just short of cooing, "Ooh, aren't you strong?"
HBO directing veteran Alan Taylor was expected to bring darker themes to the "Thor" film with his background in "Game of Thrones" and "Sopranos" episodes, but the result is a more depressed environment of Thor pining for Jane, Jane pining for Thor, and no sparks flying once they're together.
It probably didn't help to have five screenwriters on this project that feels like a hodgepodge of what's expected from Marvel films rather than something original. The last thing audiences want from Marvel's films is for them to fall into a predictable, by-the-numbers rut.
The one element that is improved from the first film is the special-effects work, making Asgard an even more detailed kingdom in the sky and making the final battles scenes bigger and louder.
The great disappointment is in seeing a Marvel film fall into the too-frequent trap of many sequels: When the story isn't there, blow up more stuff.
The bottom-line is that there's more originality and enthusiasm in each week's TV episode of "Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D" than there is in "Thor: The Dark World."
Thor: The Dark World
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Christopher Eccleston, Anthony Hopkins
Theaters: (IMAX 3-D) Cinemark Tulsa, AMC Southroads 20 (3-D) Cinemark Broken Arrow, Starworld 20, Owasso, Sand Springs (2-D) RiverWalk, Eton Square, Admiral Twin Drive-in
Running time: 1 hour, 51 minutes
Rated: PG-13 (sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some suggestive content)
Quality: -- --(on a scale of zero to four stars)
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